Forging An Avengers Video Game
The Avengers was an incredible, incredible film! Every part of it was spot on. The action, the acting, the characters, their relationships and portrayal, all of it was perfect. A film that could have gone disastrously wrong instead went better than could have ever been expected. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was “this would make an awesome video game!” I’ve spent some time contemplating what ingredients would be needed to make a game with the same lasting impression as the blockbuster film. Imagine my excitement when a teaser trailer was unveiled for an Avengers game at E3! Batman had already shown the game industry how a super hero game should be made, hopefully they had heeded those lessons for this latest title!
Now imagine my disappointment upon discovering it is merely a Fighting game, utilizing the Kinect in the Xbox 360 version, a genre for which I hold very little interest. Unfortunately for now, it seems, we haven’t got a game to look forward to that does for the Avengers what Arkham did for Batman. In the mean time, the film has left us (or at least me) desperate to wield the mighty hammer of Thor, possess the countless abilities of Tony Stark’s weaponized suit, control the limitless strength of the Hulk and be in the same room as the Black Widow. Forming a game that is enjoyable, unique and that stands alone from the movie is a delicate task that must try to avoid the common pit falls of its predecessors.
My requests for my ideal Avengers game, at least as far as I can imagine, are as follows:
1. A new story
As great as the story for the film was, I feel that if a game is going to succeed, it needs to have its own defining story- which I believe to be important for all video games of whom’s world has already appeared on the big screen. Otherwise, developers risk imposing restrictions on the story and a direction that would feel like the natural progression in the game would be ruled out to ensure remaining true to the film. Likewise, any mystery or building anticipation would fall flat in the game as many of the players will know how it plays out having watched the film, at which point the story will immediately feel superficial. Plus, if you are ultimately getting the same story either way, why not watch the live action version?
2. A clever approach to playing as each of the different characters
It wouldn’t really be an Avengers game if you could only play as Iron Man, that would just be “Iron Man ft. The Avengers” (which sounds like some metal band). However, I don’t think the ability to actively transition between characters, lego-style, would quite work either. One solution could be to choose who you would like to play as at the start and keep them throughout, but the problem with this is that there will be a spotlight on one particular hero throughout. The charm of the film is that everybody felt like equals, more or less, maybe not always in ability but definitely in importance. On the other hand, this would be a good incentive to attempt multiple play-throughs. Maybe the game could adopt a similar scheme to Mass Effect accept rather than carrying decisions and characters from one game to the next, it is across play-throughs. Another approach could be to have one chapter as Iron Man and another as Archer, etc. But then, who should you control in the final chapter? I’d like to be able to build an intimate understanding of a character similarly to what was achieved in Batman, and this requires getting this aspect exactly right.
3. Rewarding combat
You are a super hero, your skills are unrivalled, you have spent years mastering your abilities. A player shouldn’t be able to just pick up a controller and command a bow and arrow like Archer. Of course the game needs to be accessible but it also needs to reward players that have taken time to learn the controls, practice techniques and attune their timing. In fact, I want to put on Iron Man’s suit for the first time and flail around, crash into buildings and shoot everywhere accept the target. I don’t want it to feel easy at first, it needs to take practice. Just like your super powered avatar, you need to feel like your power has been earned. I don’t mean to keep referring to one example, but rewarding combat is something Batman did very well. At first it should be a catastrophe, as it usually is when a hero first discovers his/her abilities in the comic books, by the end it should feel organic and second nature.
4. Getting the Hulk right
In my opinion, the biggest faux pas of previous games starring the Hulk is how much control you are given over the green menace. It is regularly mentioned that Bruce Banner has no control over his alter ego, giving this control to the player undermines the essence of the character. Of course, playing as the Hulk appeals to many due to the untethered destruction that you are able to cause, but then what you see in the comic book and film realisations of the Hulk isn’t what you are getting in the video game. There was quite a stress on the fear amongst the other Avengers in the film concerning the volatility of their colleague Bruce Banner which I feel is important to portray in the video game. Perhaps the Hulk shouldn’t be a playable character, but instead be used as a device to heighten anxiety for the player. For instance, a player should be responsible for making sure Banner stays calm, you should fear the consequences of Banner transforming. And maybe, if you are unsuccessful on keeping a lid on the professor, the narrative suddenly focuses on controlling an out of control Hulk- like a Locust Berzerker! No, no, I take that back, that’s a bad idea.
5. Appropriate freedom
In the case of characters like Iron Man, Thor and I guess Captain America, being able to travel great distances rapidly is an important attribute of the character and so the player should be able to exercise this in maybe a free roam style. On the other hand, characters like Black Widow and Archer would benefit from a more linear gameplay style, which lends itself more appropriately to their more stealth-like disposition. If I was to choose one style over the other and stick to it, it would probably be the linear route. Free Roam opens up the gameplay to allow for side missions and personalised experience, but for the game to work as well as the film did, its crucial that the developers are able to craft a focused narrative that allows for tight control over character development and a focused story progression.
I feel like I’ve offered a lot more questions than actual solutions, but that may just be because it is very difficult to get an Avengers game right. The film hit upon a perfect formula and an attempt to imitate that closely is probably futile, but that’s not to say another approach wouldn’t work as spectacularly in a gaming capacity. I just hope that if a company were to pursue such a game, they would put enough time and thought into it to forge a game that can proudly assume the Avengers insignia.
If you have any opinions or suggestions, please feel free to voice them below!
– I’ve only seen the film, not the comic books. Please pardon any heresy I’ve committed by exclusively referring to the film 🙂
Thanks for reading 🙂